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Donaire leads boxing into the future

(Photo © Chris Farina / Top Rank)
(Photo © Chris Farina / Top Rank)

Since July of 2012, Nonito Donaire, 30-1, 19 KOs, has been showing the boxing world he is a truly clean athlete. When the super bantamweight champion signed up to join to be the inaugural fighter in the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association’s state-of-the-art 24/7/365 year-round anti-doping program, he began sending a message to the sport and to his fans that his in the ring accomplishments are all natural. Since that time, while no athlete has joined him in 24/7/365 VADA testing, some have joined VADA’s training camp testing in an attempt to display they are PED-free. In a year that has seen positive test results for performance enhancing drugs in combat sports occur at an alarming rate and state commissions not respond by upgrading their testing programs, Donaire’s near 6 month one man stand is a sign of hope through personal responsibility.

“Well for me, “I do it for my own reasons but it’s up to the boxing world,” Donaire told Thursday night via phone from Houston where he will defend his titles against Jorge Arce of Mexico on HBO. “It’s a great sport around the world. Perhaps the promoters should mandate it so that no one else can say no [to testing]. For me, it doesn’t matter. I’ve always had the mentality that even if they’re on [PEDs] I’m still going to beat them. They still bleed, they still break. And with the way I think and the way I fight and train, I can break them down."

From his fighting style which features a speed-based attack that is free flowing and unorthodox, incorporating start and stop footwork, explosive punches that come from odd angles, and switched stances, Donaire is his own creation; A mix of old and new school fighting and fitness philosophies.

A Filipino-American who makes his home in Northern California’s Bay Area with his lovely wife Rachel, Donaire doesn’t take a typical approach to the fight game. It is this independent spirit that has brought him together with an interesting group of men who all serve a unique role at various times during his 11 year win streak (he lost in his second fight back in 2001).

One member of the team who has had a profound effect yet brought a cloud of suspicion to Donaire is Victor Conte. Following a chance meeting with nutritionist/anti-doping advocate Conte at a bank, Donaire’s mind opened to new ways to expand his athletic potential. The two agreed to work together.

Conte, who runs SNAC (Scientific Nutrition for Advanced Conditioning), a sports nutrition supplement company in the Bay Area, is likely best known as the founder of BALCO, which was implicated in supplying illegal undetectable performance enhancing drugs to high level athletes during a 4 year period from 2000-2003.

However, for 15 years prior to that period, Conte’s company helped athletes reach a higher level of performance level legally and above all intelligently. Using in-depth blood analysis to determine nutrition status plus monitoring liver, kidney, and heart functions to determine proper hydration and appropriate supplementation, Conte and his team developed personalized nutrition programs for their athletes.  

Since the moment Conte came clean on national television in 2004 to present day, he has done his best to promote what he calls the new school of strength and conditioning methods and educate the sports world on the dangers of performance enhancing drugs. A non-stop anti-doping advocate who is arguably the movement’s most vocal member, Conte’s greatest love is being in the trenches and helping athletes get to the next a higher level of performance.

He and Donaire hit it off immediately.

Soon after they met, Donaire began to work with Conte at the Undisputed Boxing Gym in San Carlos, CA. It was there that Conte joined strength coach Michael Bazzel and primary trainer Brian Schwartz, to help Donaire go from title holder to a unified champion undergoing the most stringent drug testing available.

Extensive blood work, physiological monitoring, hypoxic training, you name it, Donaire and his high tech sport’s science team are doing it. Sprint coach Remy Korchemny’s speed training designed to develop explosiveness, elastic band and plyometric exercises along with Conte’s SNAC products have all been implemented into Donaire’s regimen over the last seven fights. Conte’s supplementation from SNAC includes multi-vitamins, pre and post workout drinks to go with his first creation, ZMA; a zinc/magnesium/B-6 mixture that promotes deep healing sleep and helps aid in the precious recovery process needed after a hard day’s training.

And it doesn’t stop there.

From Wednesday before the fight as Donaire heads deep into the weight cutting phase to fight night, Donaire will be undergoing strict protocols designed to optimize his performance once the bell rings. Before the fight, Donaire will take somewhere between 12-15 supplements put together in personalized fashion. These “pre-competition packs” are perfectly legal. All of them are itemized and the list is handed over to the relevant commissions as well as VADA.

The end result from this kind of Avengers-style group of specialists speaks for itself. In the seven fights with this incarnation of his fight team, Donaire is 7-0 with 4 KOs winning titles at 118 and 122 in the process.

“I think I’m more comfortable that way,” said Donaire of his team,” fighting that way, with the freedom to pretty much fight my fight. They pretty much overlook everything, every little thing and they trust in my judgement. I pretty much create all the much strategy and incorporate it to see if it works in sparring. They are pretty much my eyes when it comes down to it.”

On fight night, Donaire adds yet another dimension when he puts trainer Robert Garcia, who handles Brandon Rios and Mikey Garcia among others, to his corner.

“We have a lot of guys that specialize,” said Donaire. “We have Baz [Mike Bazzel] for strength, Remy for sprints, Brian who is fast enough to handle my speed on the mitts. Robert’s another guy who is another set of eyes. He gives the trainer’s viewpoint when he is in the corner.”

Despite Garcia not being there throughout training camp, Donaire explained that they generally do discuss strategy over the phone during camp.

“We usually do. I usually have Brian talk with Robert,” said Donaire. “But for this fight Robert’s been busy with a lot of fighters. So it’s been tough getting a hold of him. But Robert is one of the eyes on this team that has experience.”

In his last few fights, Donaire has had an issue with his left hand which he leads with as a right-handed fighter. A deep cut on his knuckle was opened in a fight and has thus far not healed 100% during his busy fight and training schedule. In his last fight against Toshiaki Nishioka, the hand was a problem because it was an open wound heading into the bout. This time, Donaire says it is healed. Mostly.

“It’s decent,” Donaire graded. “I think the wound is closed so that makes it about 90%. So there is a chance of it opening in the fight. But we’re prepared for that. I don’t think it will be as bad as it was when I fought Nishioka. It was opened already and this time it is all closed. We’re ready for anything.”

The topic on most fight fans minds these days is the issue of performance enhancing drug testing. While many will look at Conte’s presence on the Donaire team as a red flag, the fighter has been tested multiple times by VADA since July and has not come up positive for anything.

But in Arce’s corner, or at least rumored to be in his training camp, is one Angel “Memo” Heredia. If you don’t know who he is, well, here you go:


Heredia has every bit the checkered history Conte does. He is a former steroids dealer and chemist who specialized in undetectable PEDs. Since 2003, Heredia has been testifying as part of a leniency deal against the very trainers and athletes he supplied drugs to.

While people change and reform is always possible, it is easy to point out the benchmarks of Conte’s reform. He went to prison. He took responsibility for what he did and has tirelessly been a vocal advocate for more effective testing. Two of the fighters he has worked with, Donaire and Andre Berto have been tested by VADA. Berto came up positive for nandrolone metabolites during that testing program. However, Berto and Conte clarified the fighter was not following Conte’s protocols in his second camp away from Undisputed and Conte.

According to Heredia, he continues to testify in open cases. While it does seem unlikely someone under government scrutiny would attempt cheating, Heredia’s fighters train in Mexico away from state commissions’ or any other watchful eye. In the lead in to Marquez-Pacquiao 4, much of the week centered on scrutinizing Heredia, who works with Juan Manuel Marquez. Marquez knocked out Manny Pacquiao in six rounds.

Heredia claims to be working with the United States Anti-Doping Agency to develop a year round testing program. However, the New York Daily News reported “sources familiar with the agency say they do not believe that to be the case.”


In boxing, there is no such thing as random year round blood and urine testing unless your name is VADA or Nonito Donaire.

That in mind, for the second fight in a row, Donaire offered VADA training camp testing to his opponent. For the second fight in a row, the offer was ignored. Not denied but certainly ignored.

“I didn’t really hear anything from [Team Arce] regarding whether it was turned down or not. It was more of an invitation like I invite everybody,” explained Donaire. “I offered it to my opponents and it’s up to them to take it or not. [Arce] kind of disregarded it same with Nishioka. They, I talked with them.  [Nishioka] I did it personally. With Arce it was more of a general thing.”

All testing talk aside, Arce is a tough customer. He has a rough and tumble come forward style and will look to make a fight of this. Donaire is longer, taller, quicker, younger, faster and likely hits harder than Arce. In a style sense, Arce is a Christmas gift for Donaire.

“The only thing I think that Arce can really do with me is go for broke and put his face right in my chest so that my power is not strong. And he has the ability to batter me on the inside,” observed Donaire. “That’s the only thing that he can really do to beat me. Fighting me on the outside would be the biggest mistake he can do. So I am expecting him to some in and rush me. At the same time, knowing Arce opens up when he punches so there’s a lot of counters in every direction that I can land and that can open me up. So we’ll see how Arce plays it.”

Knowing his opponent will only be undergoing standard Texas commission drug testing on the day of the fight or that Donaire enters the battle with a hand less than healthy doesn’t faze him. Like a fighter doesn’t look ahead to the next fight, Donaire is focused on the task at hand.

“I try to avoid all that stuff in my head because that will just take me off my game plan,” he explained. “I’m just going to go out there and do my best like I always do. Even if this was in Mexico, I would have done the same thing and try not and worry about anybody else but handle the business that I have going in there. Namely, execute my plan.  I don’t think the fight will go the distance if I am able to do it properly.”
You can email Gabriel at, follow him on Twitter at and catch him every Monday on “The Next Round” with Steve Kim. You can also tune in to hear him and co-host David Duenez live on the BlogTalk radio show, Thursdays at 5-8 p.m., PST.
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